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Gay marriage continues to stir campaigns in Iowa

September 1, 2009 |  8:00 pm

The battle to legalize gay marriage in Iowa may be over, but the war to keep it so is just beginning.  Two supporters of same-sex marriage have gone to state authorities and filed a complaint against a group that helped outlaw same-sex marriage in California.

The issue revolves around an open state House seat and whether New Jersey-based National Organization for Marriage broke state campaign laws by spending more than $86,000 in TV ads to support the GOP candidate. The complaint against NOM, as it is known, was filed with the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board.

Though he’s not part of the complaint, the whole issue relates to the campaign of Stephen Burgmeier, who wants to put the issue of same-sex marriage up for a public vote. His plans fit in with a campaign NOM has launched, dubbed the Reclaim Iowa Project, to overturn a state Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage out in the heartland.

The group’s goal is to target legislative races and help get candidates elected who want to get the issue on the ballot – and make such marriages illegal. So how big of a deal was it that ...

... NOM spent that much money to run ads backing Burgmeier?

Well, considering that, according to the Des Moines Register, Burgmeier raised just over $63,000 – and his Democratic rival Curt Hanson pulled in nearly $43,000 – in the special election race, it’s kind of a major deal.

Last month, W. Charles Smithson, the director of the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, wrote to NOM to “make sure everyone was on the same page” and that the group was familiar with Iowa election law. One point Smithson made was that NOM would need to register as a political action committee if donors are giving $750 or more for “express advocacy activities” – as well as disclose the identities of donors.

News of Smithson’s letter to NOM apparently raised suspicions about the group’s activities. Hence the complaint about possible campaign finance violations from One Iowa (the state’s largest civil rights group for gay and lesbians) and the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund.

“We haven’t done anything about the complaint yet,” Smithson said.

NOM didn’t call us back today to talk about the issue. And the voters? They were voting today – Sept. 1 – in a special election to fill the seat.

Get ready: 2010 isn’t that far off.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

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